Israel's Right-wing Fanatics Don't Speak for the People

Israel has a major interest in not turning religious issues into the dominant point of friction. Nasrallah, Rohani and Haniyeh would like nothing better than a conflict with Israel over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa/the Temple Mount.

Members of right-wing organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014.
Ofer Vaknin

The attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick has unleashed the right-wing spokesmen, and they unanimously assailed what they termed incitement against settlers and against the Temple Mount Faithful, the organization in which Glick was active.

Much of the public opposes the militant line of the Yesha Council of settlers and objects to turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a national one into a religious one.

But in recent years right-wing spokesmen have been filled with self-confidence. They’re convinced that the fear of terrorism from the Arab side gives their camp a tailwind to do whatever it pleases. They see themselves as victims of the mobilized media and as representing a decisive majority of the public, which is oppressed by those media.

Israel Harel, in his defense of Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter, cited a survey showing that 80 percent of Israelis believe in God.

Many Israelis do indeed believe in God, but that doesn’t mean they have put themselves at the service of the Temple Mount Faithful or support drafting the Lord of Hosts into the Israel Defense Forces.

The claim that the Israeli majority has a hawkish worldview also requires scrutiny. How many Israelis have crossed the Green Line for social or personal reasons and not as part of an organized tour? How many Israelis support the settlements outside the blocs? How many Israelis support transferring the focal point of the conflict to the Holy Basin in Jerusalem?

True, there is a group of religious Zionists for whom a peace agreement isn’t an option. They rely on divine providence and believe it will work on their behalf come Judgment Day if they just bring Israel back to the religious sources and the Temple Mount. But this group is a minority – some would say a delusional minority.

But why should we complain about pundits who support such an incendiary policy when government spokesmen refrain from warning that getting embroiled in the Temple Mount and imbecilic talk about building the Temple are liable to create a united Arab front against us, and that this is a surefire recipe for missing the opportunity that has opened up for effective negotiations over an agreement with the Arab states and the Palestinians?

Israel has a major interest in not turning religious issues into the dominant point of friction. Indeed, one can safely assume that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh support the Temple Mount Faithful wholeheartedly. After all, there’s nothing they’d like better than a conflict with Israel over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa/the Temple Mount. In their view, that would offer an opportunity to change the Arab-Israeli balance of power.

The scent of elections in the air may be causing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to veer right and turn the battle over Jerusalem into the flagship of his campaign. But he must not forget that he is still prime minister, and as such, he bears responsibility for protecting the interests of the State of Israel; for preventing his own home, the Likud party, from being swept along after the Temple Mount Faithful; and for coming out with a firm statement on this issue, joined by the heads of all the major Knesset factions.

The extremists’ position is not that of the people. Netanyahu, as a leader whose policies and motives are deeply controversial, must clearly state the following with regard to the Temple Mount: “Madmen, get off the roof!”